Many of you have probably heard of the story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. Their journey into the Ecuadoran jungle and then the murder of Jim and four other men who went deeper into the jungle to share Jesus with the natives. You may have watched the movie 'The End of the Spear' which also shares their story.
It's a powerful story and not because of what happened or who these people were, but because it revealed a little more of who God really is.
The book in itself was a little drawn out for me and talked a lot about airplanes and trips in the airplanes and drops by the airplanes... : )
But I loved reading about how the couples met each other and how they ended up in Ecuador together. I also loved Jim and Elisabeth's attitudes and joy in what they were doing. They truly loved God and their enthusiasm is contagious.
What Elisabeth writes at the end of the book in her second epilogue - January 1996, was very profound. She talks about accepting God's ways above our own. About trusting God when we don't understand and leaving all to Him.
She says here:
"There is always the urge to oversimplify, to weigh in at once with interpretations that cannot possibly cover all the data or stand up to close inspection. We know, for example, that time and again in the history of the christian church, the blood of martyrs has been its seed. So we are tempted to assume a simple equation here. Five men died. This will mean x-number of Waorani Christians.
Perhaps so. Perhaps not. Cause and effect are in God's hands. Is it not the part of faith simply to let them rest there?
God is God.
I dethrone Him in my heart if I demand that He act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice. It is the same spirit that taunted, 'If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross.' There is unbelief, there is even rebellion, in the attitude that says, 'God has no right to do this to five men unless...'
Those men had long since given themselves without reservation to do the will of God. So far as they knew, they were to be plain ordinary missionaries - Roj to the Atshuaras; Jim, Ed and Pete to the Quichuas, Nate to serve all the jungle stations with his airplane. But small things happen (Nate found some inhabited Waorani houses). Small decisions are made (he told Jim and Ed), which lead to bigger ones (they began to pray with new vigor for an entrance into the territory), and ultimately a man's individual choices become momentous.
Plain, ordinary missionaries with wives and children whom they loved found themselves faced with a life and death decision. They were not looking for anything bigger to do, let alone for fame. The need of the Waoranis simply became the categorical imperative."
Later she writes:
"I believe with all my heart that God's Story has a happy ending...
...But not yet, not necessarily yet. It takes faith to hold on to that in the face of the great burden of experience, which seems to prove otherwise. What God means by happiness and goodness is a far higher thing than we can conceive."
Then she reflects on the massacre:
"The massacre was a hard fact, widely reported at the time, surprisingly well remembered by many even today. It was interpreted according to the measure of one's faith or faithfulness - full of meaning or empty. A triumph or a tragedy. An example of brave obedience or a case of fathomless foolishness. The beginning of a great work, a demonstration of the power of God, a sorrowful first act that would lead to a beautifully predictable third act in which all puzzles would be solved, God would vindicate Himself. Waoranis would be converted, and we could all 'feel good' about our faith. Bulletins about progress were hailed with joy and a certain amount of 'Ah! You see!'
But the danger lies in seizing upon the immediate and hoped-for, as though God's justice is thereby verified, and glossing over as neatly as possible certain other consequences, some of them inevitable, others simply the result of a botched job. In short, in the Waorani story as in other stories, we are consoled as long as we do not examine too closely the unpalatable data. By this evasion we are willing still to call the work 'ours' to arrogate to ourselves whatever there is of success, and to deny all failure.
A healthier faith seeks a reference point outside all human experience, the Polestar which marks the course of all human events, not forgetting that impenetrable mystery of the interplay of God's will and man's (e.g. 'He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief'; 'Jesus was handed over to the power of men'; 'Thou hast set me free to range at will')."
Life is messy and faith is messy. We should never put our trust in either of them, but in God alone.
"My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him."
Elisabeth closed with this:
"It is not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on. It is God and nothing less than God, for the work is God's and the call is God's and everything is summoned by Him and to His purposes, the whole scene, the whole mess, the whole package - our bravery and our cowardice, our love and our selfishness, our strengths and our weaknesses.
The God who could take a murderer like Moses and an adulterer like David and a traitor like Peter and make of them strong servants of His is a God who can also redeem savage Indians, using as the instruments of His peace a conglomeration of sinners who sometimes look like heroes and sometimes like villains, for 'we are no better than pots of earthenware to contain this treasure (The revelation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ), and this proves that such transcendent power does not come from us, but is God's alone' (2 Corinthians 4:7, NEB).
We are not always sure where the horizon is. We should not know which end is up were it not for the shimmering pathway of light falling on the white sea. The One who laid earth's foundation and settled its dimensions knows where the lines are drawn.
He gives all the light we need for trust and for obedience."
When things don't turn out the way we think they should we may question God or even hold some resentment against Him, but that doesn't change who God is or how great His love is for us.
As Elisabeth said, 'God is God.'
Do I think it is a coincidence that I would start writing this post at this time? No, I don't believe in coincidence. Everything has a purpose and maybe that was for you to read Elisabeth's words today.
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths."
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